Claim That Obama Did Nothing About Immigration Reform Not True

A few days ago, Fox News contributor Karl Rove went on Hannity and promptly dropped four lies in four minutes, one of which was that President Obama promised to introduce comprehensive legislation in August 2009, but “nothing has happened.” Writing in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, columnist Kimberley Strassel put forth the same argument in trying to disprove Obama's statement that his administration's recent policy shift on immigration had to be done in “the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system.”

She wrote:

The president's claim that he had to do this because Congress wouldn't act -- a statement made in the face of Mr. Rubio's efforts toward a deal and the president's own lack of interest in compromise over his more than three years in office -- was particularly galling.

In fact, Obama and the Democrats did try to address immigration reform but were rebuffed by Senate Republicans -- something right-wing media have been trying to erase from the historical record. Moreover, when it became clear that immigration reform would not be attainable, Obama focused his administration's efforts into ramping up enforcement and fortifying the border -- which many Republicans demanded as a condition for supporting reform.

On MSNBC today, contributor Ari Melber and political analyst Michael Eric Dyson pointed some of this out following a speech by Mitt Romney to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, during which he adopted the right-wing frame. Romney claimed that Obama “failed to address immigration reform” after he promised to do so in 2008.

But as Dyson and Melber noted, that's not true.

Indeed, Melber stated:

MELBER: You know, when he gets up there and says this president and the Democrats haven't tried to do anything until the last minute as a political maneuver, that may play well with people who haven't been following it, but people in this community know about the DREAM Act, they know that 55 senators were pushing it, that it had a majority, that it was filibustered. They know all that. You don't have to remind them of that because people follow the issue. So for him to say that I think also rings a little hollow.

In 2010, despite nearly unanimous opposition from Republicans, the DREAM Act passed the House. The bill died in the Senate, even though three years earlier, a dozen Republican senators had supported it. ABC News wrote at the time: “By a vote of 55 to 41, the bill -- the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act -- failed to win the 60 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster, even though the measure passed the House last week.”

Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast further explained:

Obama signaled in April 2009 that he wanted comprehensive immigration reform to be a first-year issue. So the White House started holding meetings on the issue, but it came clear that he'd have no GOP support at all. Remember that at that time, Al Franken wasn't yet sworn in, so Obama had only 59 votes in the Senate, not the needed 60.

Plus, Obama ran into some opposition in his own party, in both houses. The idea that Obama “was free to pursue any policy he pleased” assumes that when the president says jump, the legislators of his party say how high. That was true of the Bush-era GOP, because they march in a Politburo kind of lockstep for the sake of political power, but it certainly isn't true of Democrats.

So anyway, Obama didn't have the votes, and he announced in May 2009 that he'd shelve comprehensive reform and start with border enforcement. The border enforcement, as is now well known, has been more aggressive and led to more deportations than any previous administration since immigration became a crisis, but since the idea that Obama could be aggressively enforcing the law just doesn't sound right for someone who's a Kenyan socialist America destroyer, the Republicans have simply dismissed this fact. In other words, he did the only thing he could do to try to win GOP support, and he did it well, and they don't support him anyway.

But the false claim that Obama “didn't do anything” on immigration has become an entrenched right-wing talking point. Less than an hour after Melber and Dyson refuted the claim, Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace, a former senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign, repeated it on MSNBC:

Yet, unlike Fox, where Rove was allowed to make the claim unchallenged, anchor Andrea Mitchell noted that “some of the strong immigration reform supporters on the Hill on the Republican side abandoned” immigration reform and that “Obama didn't have any partners on the Hill to work with.”